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Veterans Memorial installed in Holderness

October 29, 2009
HOLDERNESS — A handful of silent observers, sipping coffee and bundled against the chilly morning air, stood by to witness the installation of the 8,000 lb. granite Holderness Veterans Honor Roll on the grounds of the Public Library last Thursday morning. It was an impressive sight.

But it was especially moving for the three dedicated researchers who have devoted countless hours to the cause, documenting the military service of each and every Holderness war veteran from the Revolutionary War to the current Gulf War conflict.

It all began no less than 11 years ago, when Pat Ford and her son Ed Ford were looking at the previous honor roll, a wooden sign installed after World War II that had so faded over the years that many of the names had been obscured…but not forgotten. Amongst the names that could hardly be read were those of Pat's husband and brother, veterans of World War II. Then and there Pat and Ed decided to take on the project of doing the work of coming up with an enduring tribute to their service. They brought their idea to the Grange and then to the Holderness Board of Selectmen and found a lot of support for the project.

Pat Ford says that it was something she felt just had to be done. "The old memorial was ruined. There were so many names that you couldn't read," said Pat Ford in an interview after the installation last week. "It wasn't fair to them. We felt they should get the honor and respect they deserve. It needed to be fixed. It is as simple as that."

But they quickly found that it wasn't going to be a simple task at all. At the time, there was no backup information about the names on the old Honor Roll, and so began a long journey of working to document the residency and military service of each and every Holderness veteran who served in wartime since the Revolutionary War.

Sitting amidst dozens of three ring binders filled with the accumulated documentation for each soldier included on the monument, Ed Ford recounted all the work that went into verifying each of the names and bringing the monument up to date. "When we started we thought that there would be some government agency we could write and get a complete list of those in military service, but that isn't how it works," explained Ed Ford. "You have to already know someone's name, the correct spelling and it helps to have their social security number. Then it can get pretty expensive. So we didn't use this option at all."

Some work had been done on the Civil War names by Ashland historian David Ruell. Ashland was a part of Holderness until 1869 so many of the Holderness names up to that date can be found on the Ashland monument as well.

But Pat and Ed say found many changes additions and changes to be made and were determined to include names only after they had verified the dates of service and Holderness residency at the time of their enlistment. Some of the names on the previous list had been seasonal residents, or people who lived in town only long after their military service had ended.

In any event, Ford says that progress on the research eventually stalled until genealogist Sherry King came on board as a consultant several years ago and breathed new life into the work. They found her through the State Historical Library and discovered that her extensive experience in using the archives and various online sources on information was invaluable to getting the job done. "We wouldn't have been able to do this if it wasn't for her help," said Ford. "She was a great moral support as well and we really needed that. Her knowledge of computers really made a big difference."

The information was pieced together name by name with the aid of historical resources in the state archives and other sources, like the 78 volumes of extracts from the Revolutionary War Pension Rolls, and the official state of New Hampshire Military History, as well as the Bonus Rolls from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Each of these sources (and many more) were laboriously scanned, some by computer search engines, but many more by the human eye, for any mention of Holderness servicemen and women. But none of these sources was complete and many lists had to be complied and compared over years of hard work.

The result is a handsome granite monument, adorned with the seals of the Navy, Air Force, Army, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines, as well as the Town of Holderness seal and the POW/MIA insignia. It is engraved with names on both sides –there is no front and back—with space reserved to add names if they should come to light in subsequent years.

The Holderness Honor Roll will be dedicated during a special ceremony to be held Veterans Day, November 11, 2009 at 11 a.m., featuring remarks by Holderness Monument Committee Chairperson Barbara Currier, music and much more.

Matin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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